Bull ‘super dads’ are being engineered to produce sperm from another father

Gene-edited ‘surrogate sires’ could help spread desirable traits rapidly in some livestock.

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Reproductive biologists are developing an unusual way to produce farm animals with desirable traits: injecting surrogate fathers — whose own sperm production has been crippled by gene editing — with sperm-producing stem cells from another male that pass along ‘elite’ genes to offspring. From then on, the surrogate sire’s offspring will not be his own, but the donor’s.

The goal is to spread genes for desirable traits, such as disease resistance or heat tolerance, through a population of animals in fewer generations than is possible with conventional breeding. If scientists can surmount lingering technical hurdles, the technique could prove invaluable for pigs, chickens and other livestock that are tricky to breed using artificial insemination. “There’s a lost opportunity to improve genetics,” says Jon Oatley, a reproductive biologist at Washington State University in Pullman.

By: Heidi Ledford/Nature News

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